Since I continue to learn things about cruising from Cruise Critic I thought I would share the experience we had on our recent cruise on the NCL Jewel. We consider ourselves to not be experts but have taken 1-2 per year for the past 6 years and have cruised several of the NCL ships, this was our first trip on the Jewel. We chose this trip because of the New York boarding making it a nice easy trip in from Eastern CT and this itinerary was only going on 3 trips this May. I will break this review into categories to make for easier reading.
Embarkment: We decided to forgo our usual drive into Port and park and went with a tour bus linked from the NCL web site ( Entertainment Tours)this bus company does trips to the port starting in Braintree Mass with stops in Providence RI, New London, New Haven and Bridgeport CT. The bus was on time and provided a clean bus and a smooth ride into the port ( despite a bicycle race and many detours) we were dropped off at the front door with the baggage handlers unloading our bags we went straight in to register. As we had booked using our Harrah's Casino discount we were able to check in using the same line that Suites and Villa's use ( nice surprise) so 15 minutes later we were sitting in the dining room having lunch! WOW - Grade A+ for both the bus ride and the speedy efficient check in.
Ship: The Jewel is a well maintained ship using a color scheme of bright Aqua, pink and orange. Our balcony stateroom was right near the Forward elevator making it very convenient to navigate to our room without wandering down endless halls. The room stewards were efficient and accommodating and kept our home away from home spotless clean. The cabin had very sufficient storage for the way too many clothes I insisted I needed ( and did not) and we were very easily able to store 2 large suitcases and 2 carry on size suitcases under the bed. I was surprised that the Jewel cabins did not have flat screen TV's however pleasantly surprised that the movies that played in rotation were of new release quality. The cabin did have a hot water maker with instant coffee and tea supplied and a hairdryer that actually dry your hair. The bathrooms are set up similar to other NCL ships with the 3 sections with sliding doors. The shower has shower gel type soap and shampoo supplied ( no conditioner). The cabin met our expectations but had we had more than 2 it would have felt cramped. - Grade A
Food: Often the biggest area of critique is the food. We found the buffet area to be quite organized with stations clearly marked and a bountiful amount of choices although by the end of the cruise it began to feel redundant. The lines for made to order Omelets never seemed too long and we never had a problem finding a place to sit and eat although we sometimes had to join others at larger tables. Their are 2 main dining rooms Azura ( which we preferred) and Tsar's palace which was beautifully decorated with the large AFT windows. Cagney's steakhouse had the usual good steaks and had much better desserts than the main dining rooms or buffet. The Blue Lagoon was excellent for a quick bite and had the best wings and tomato soup! Over a 9 day cruise the main dining room menu's seemed to repeat main course selections and Pork seemed to be offered almost every night. The always available chicken and steak were tasty. Talking with several different diners throughout the week most felt the food ( other than specialty restaurants) was on the salty side and that most of the desserts seemed to be mixed with some kind of gelatin that made a lot of them have a odd texture and little flavor. Be on the watch for the "washy washy" gals up at the buffet, they had energy galore and made washing your hands fun. Grade B- for food, A+ for the washy washy gals!!
Entertainment: The nighttime entertainment ranged from average to excellent. Band on the Run was the first "major" show and while entertaining you felt like you had seen it before. They also had Brenda Kay a hypnotist that put on a very good show. Comedian Buzz Sutherland was okay, have seen better when they play off the audience. MacDonald Brothers from the Britain's got talent show were entertaining but not exciting for a headline show. Magic by Jeane Pierre had some wow moments but he also used comedy in his routine and we found it annoying after awhile and wished for more magic and less jokes. The crew had an afternoon show which was fantastic. Another interesting show was a husband and wife duo that did aerial stunts (cirque style) they kept us amazed at what their body's could do. The big events of the week was the big show Le Cirque Bijou a fantastic do not miss show!! The Jewel also hosted several Nickelodeon events as we did not have any children we did not attend but from the sounds you could hear the children seemed to be having a blast. The Jewel is also doing a trial of the game show "Deal or no Deal" cards to play along and get a chance to get on stage were $25.00 each. They ran this show 4 times during the week, we were a bit turned off with the price to participate but did hear from others that going once was entertaining but to go more than once was just expensive. The Jewel daily had all the rest of the typical activities, dance classes, parties, arts and crafts, bridge, Bingo several times, seminars etc. You cannot possibly be board with all that was going on. The CD Dan "the man" was of high energy and always out and about it was obvious that he enjoyed his job and his team were kept busy every single day.
Misc: One of the most controversial subjects always centers around the availability of pool side lounge chairs. If you want to plan a pool day then you DO need to get up early and find your spot. We planned on being poolside by 8:00 AM and found that already 75% of the chairs already had towels, bags, books or shoes on them, they were also probably only 30% filled with people. We set ourselves up and found that the chairs around us did not have people actual use them until around 10:30. 2 Pools one marked for kids and the other marked adults both pools were salt water and heated. There is a slide set up next to the kids pool and they seemed to be having a blast. 4 Hot Tubs surrounded the pools that often were filled with folks just sitting on the edge. Their was also a kids only hot tub in the back area that was always full of kids. I would suggest that NCL revamp the pool area and perhaps install cubes that people could use if they only wanted a hot tub or pool dip, this may eliminate the chair use as a place to keep things and open up the chairs for those wishing to sun. Grade C
Casino: As we were guest of CAS we found the casino staff to be friendly, the casino itself clean and had a good variety of machines. It did get crowded before and after shows but most times their was a good selection. The casino never felt smoky as it was the only inside venue available for smokers. Grade A
Soa: Enjoyed the best facial I have every had in the Spa, the staff was super friendly and I appreciated not getting the hard sale on products! Grade A+
Photo Gallery: Photo ops were abundant however trying to find your photos was difficult! The photo shop will hold all your photos in a folder behind the desk so you can make your selections at the end of the cruise rather than search again once you find them. Wish they still had the photo special they ran several years ago for 1 price all the pics that they took were yours. Ala Cart the photo's are $12.95 each and can add up quickly if you bought them all. Grade B because of price!
We had a fantastic time on the Jewel but still find the Dawn to be our favorite ship. We would definitely go again depending on price and itinerary.